Notes of intent13 September 2010
I wrote up my notes for Birth of a Killer today. For those who might not be aware, I write up author's notes of all of my books, which can be found in the Books section of my site. All you have to do is click on the thumbnail of any book on that page and you can find a set of notes from me in which I chat about how I got the ideas for the book, any problems I had when writing it, thoughts about the story, and a whole lot more! The Birth notes were a bit longer than normal, since it was the first book of the series -- I wanted to talk about how the whole series started life, not just the first book. Along with my Writing Tips, I think my book notes offer the best insights into my working routines that I can offer, as they often show how my books begin to come into being. They won't answer that most asked of general questions -- "Where do your ideas come from?" -- but they do often explain where specific book ideas came from. Anyway, if you want to go directly to the Birth of a Killer notes to check them out, CLICK HERE.
I had a little chuckle today when I read the following Tweet from fellow HarperCollins author Barry Hutchison: "It's 11:40. I've been working since 9am, but haven't written a word. Damn you emails and admin-type stuff! Damn you to HELL!" I know that feeling all too well!! The real world has an annoying habit of getting in the way of writing -- there are emails that must be answered, office stuff that needs seeing to, banking matters that must be dealt with, etc. Most days it's easy enough to deal with that side of the business, but sometimes a flood of things fall on you all at once and the day seems to disappear away in front of your eyes!! Now, to be perfectly honest, I must admit that more of than not it's quite tempting to put the writing to one side and deal with the real world demands. You won't hear many writers admitting this, but writing can be awfully boring work!!! Don't get me wrong -- I absolutely love writing. But there's no getting away from the fact that to produce a book, who have to spend several hours each day locked away in a small room, with little or no contact with the outside world. Unless you're a natural-born hermit, it can get quite lonely and claustrophobic at times. There are days when you simply crave contact with the outside world, anything to escape from the isolation for just the briefest of moments -- even if that contact is only with a bank manager or tax consultant!
It's very easy to hide from your work. Most people do it in their jobs -- teachers might spend a few minutes chatting with their students about a TV show rather than focus on their lesson all the way through; if you work in an office, you might wander into a colleague's cubicle on a pretence and chat about sport or girls or whatever. It's natural and I don't think most people worry about it, as it's not a major problem -- a teacher must cover their syllabus, and an office-worker has to answer to their superior, so they will return to their assigned duties sooner rather than later.
It's different for a writer. You work for yourself. No one is looking over your shoulder. Nobody will know if you spend a day twiddling your thumbs or watching TV. Of course, YOU will know, and unless you're a very lazy writer, guilt will prevent you from deserting your post so dramatically. But you can also hide by doing "ordinary", real world work. Answering e-mails can be as evasive a move as ditching your office to go veg-out in front of a daytime soap! You can tell yourself that you're doing important work, and grumble at how it's getting in the way of your true calling, but except for very rare days where that truly is the case (and there are usually no more then a few of those in any given year), it's rubbish -- you're lying to yourself. The real world work can almost always be slotted in around your writing -- it just means working a bit more than usual that day.
As I've often said, I prefer to work to a page count every day, rather than to an hours count. The reason is that I then have to excuse which I can hide behind. If you work to an hour count, it's easy to spend a whole day in your office and not actually get any writing done. But if you set yourself a page target every day, and crack down hard and make yoursef do it, then you'll find that all other work fits in around it, and you'll meet your aims every day, and you'll feel good about yourself, and the words will keep on flowing smoothly.
In short -- Hutchison!! Stop dawdling and start writing!!!!!